The A.C.T. Calgary barbecue takes place June 23 at the Southern Alberta Pioneer Lodge (3625 4th St. S.W.), kicking off the new organizationâ€™s mission to provide education and awareness on childrenâ€™s mental health issues.
International CACAP chair and president of A.C.T. Calgary Dr. Chris Wilkes will speak with those engaged in the research and promotion of childrenâ€™s mental health, and there will also be a performance by musical guests Los Morenos.
Tickets are $50 per person or $150 per family and are available through actcalgary.ca. For more information on the event, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mental illness doesnâ€™t just affect adults. There are thousands of children and adolescents who are diagnosed every year with a mental illness â€” yet only one in five of those who require mental health services actually receive treatment.
After years of research and seeing a need for advocacy, Dr. David Cawthorpe and Dr. Chris Wilkes have joined forces to create the All Childrenâ€™s Trust Association Calgary, aimed at increasing the awareness of mental health issues in children and provide education and funding to the community.
â€œThere are many organizations that want to help children, but so many of them arenâ€™t evidence-based,â€� says Cawthorpe. â€œWeâ€™re trying to be as evidence-based as possible. We donâ€™t want to necessarily do more research, but we want to integrate research into how we invest in children.â€�
A.C.T. Calgary hopes to engage the community through the education of professionals who work on a day-to-day basis with youth. They also hope to build relationships with existing organizations and the City of Calgary to fund initiatives that better support at-risk children and their families.
â€œWe have research that shows that early childhood development results in a considerable higher prevalence in psychiatric disorders as well as medical disorders,â€� says Wilkes. â€œWhen youâ€™re a young child, you can learn languages very easily but you can also become impressed by the stresses of your environment and that has a negative impact on how you handle stress later on.â€�
The same studies have revealed children and adults with any psychiatric disorder have about two to three times more physical disorders, respectively, compared to those without a psychiatric disorder. This has obvious cost implications, as for every $1 billion spent on those without a mental disorder, $3 billion is spent on those with a mental disorder.
â€œWe have found that when we identify children with mental health problems at the level of in-patient and emergency care, we start to ignore their physical problems,â€� says Cawthorpe. â€œThese children get one-third of the treatment of their physical problems compared to other children.â€�
By not identifying and treating mental illness early, he adds, we are creating larger social problems and expenses.
To give a quantitative perspective, Wilkes notes the international average for mental health beds in childrenâ€™s hospitals is 0.66 per 1,000. In Calgary, it is 0.09 per 1,000. A.C.T. Calgary hopes to increase this number, to ensure that every child requiring treatment will receive it.
The organization was a main supporter of a bid to host the International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions (IACAPAP) World Congress; the city was awarded the conference for September 2016. The congress will host more than 4,000 individuals from around the world to discuss scientific advancements and foundations for addressing mental health in children.
â€œThis is a society that includes all professionals that deal in childrenâ€™s mental health, such as teachers, social workers, nurses, psychologists, recreational therapists, doctors and specialists,â€� says Wilkes.
To celebrate the start up of the Association, as well as the landing of the 2016 IACAPAP congress, the organization will be hosting a barbecue on June 23. Ticket purchase will include a membership to A.C.T. Calgary.
Cara Casey is a freelance journalist. Twitter.com/caramcasey